Influence of precipitation and species composition on phytomass of a semi-arid African grassland

Tg. O'Connor et al., Influence of precipitation and species composition on phytomass of a semi-arid African grassland, J ECOLOGY, 89(5), 2001, pp. 850-860
Citations number
Categorie Soggetti
Journal title
ISSN journal
0022-0477 → ACNP
Year of publication
850 - 860
SICI code
1 The influence of botanical composition on annual phytomass production of a semi-arid grassland in response to precipitation was tested with a 19-yea r experiment. Three compositional states reflecting good, medium and poor r angeland condition, whose basal cover increased from poor through to good, were created in 1978. 2 Multiple regression models were developed for assessing whether phytomass was influenced by precipitation, composition, phytomass of the previous ye ar, basal cover, abundance of individual species, or diversity. Composition and precipitation accounted for 66% of the variation in phytomass, but a s eparate model of basal cover by precipitation was equally successful. The l inear effect of rainfall on phytomass was enhanced as composition improved from poor (0.076 g m(-2) mm(-1)) through medium (0.197 g m(-2) mm(-1)) to g ood (0.277 g m(-2) m(-1)). Phytomass increased for low precipitation if it had been high the preceding year. Phytomass was more variable over time wit h deteriorating condition. 3 Species' complementarity ensured greater and more stable production. Seta ria sphacelata, Eragrostis chloromelas and Digitaria eriantha increased phy tomass on the good or medium condition grasslands during drier years, where as Themeda triandra had this effect during wetter years. 4 Precipitation-use efficiency (PUE) was influenced mostly by composition a nd a linear and quadratic effect of precipitation (63% of variance). Optimu m PUE of 0.308, 0.203 and 0.096 g m(-2) mm(-1) for the good, medium and poo r condition grasslands, respectively, occurred at intermediate amounts (+/- 680 mm) of precipitation. PUE was increased if phytomass had been high the previous year. 5 Species' complementarity of PUE in response to precipitation was evident for all compositional states. Ten, mostly uncommon, species and their inter action with precipitation explained an extra 21-42% of the variance. Stabil ity of production was related to PUE for medium and poor condition grasslan d. Uncommon species therefore ensured growth efficiency and stabilized prod uction as condition deteriorated. 6 Diversity had no influence on phytomass or PUE except for a small to mode rate effect, respectively, for the medium condition grassland. 7 Vegetation structure, through limiting runoff and promoting infiltration, is an important control on the amount and efficiency of plant production u nder variable precipitation, whilst composition further influences the amou nt and stability of production.